Every week, Patricia Canon drives Poor Kentucky girls to distant abortion clinics. She is a member of national army of volunteers who are very brave as anti-abortion supporters say they are “accomplices to murder.”
She is volunteer at the Kentucky Health Justice Network. It is one of dozens of non-profit U.S. abortion funds that provides money and covers travel costs for women that want to get abortion. Their activity is strongest in states where Republican laws are in power.
Organizations like this were always trying to stay out of the radar and avoid being targeted by anti-abortion activists. But now, as opponents of the abortion succeeded to reduce options, companies are working on getting more support and get exposed to the public.
Electing Donald Trump for president helped abortion opponents, as he promised to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision to protect woman’s right to abortion. Critics of this decision advocate for deciding based on states. On the other side, pro-choice advocates are very worried, and this is also dangerous for support groups which are in states that are controlled by Republicans.
Executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, Yamani Hernandez said, “There is a volume and aggressiveness of anti-choice legislation and legislators who feel empowered by the administration.” The National Network of Abortion Fund represents 70 funds in 38 states..
Kentucky is a turning-point in the national debate. This state today has only one abortion provider, as opposed to 1978 when it had 17. The court’s judging will decide whether this state will become the first U.S. state without any abortion clinics. That will happen if anti-abortion Republican governor wins a licensing fight.
Abortion opponents will gather for the protests in Louisville on Saturday. Some vowed to broadcast footage of abortions on n 8-by-16-foot screen. Judge responded with ordering a temporary buffer zone around the state’s last clinic. Beside Kentucky, six other states are left with only one clinic.
A reproductive health think tank that supports abortion rights, the Guttmacher Institute said that only in the first half of the 2017 U.S. state legislatures enacted 41 new abortion restrictions. And that all happened after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to struck down restrictive abortion laws in Texas in 2016.
Many different restrictions are being proposed, ranging from waiting periods to 20-week abortion bans. According to Guttmacher data, the number of abortion providers in the U.S. fell from 2,434 in 1991 to 1,671 in 2014. Iowa forbid abortion providers to receive public money for family planning services.
The National Abortion Federation said that lowering the number of hospitals providing services and Medicaid restrictions have also downsized access. Advocates say that such laws hurt mostly poor and rural women.
Biggest effect is felt in Midwest and South as the numbers of abortion providers drastically dropped. After certain laws enacted in 2013, half of the 40 clinics in Texas closed. Since last year’s court ruling, only a few have reopened.
The National Network of Abortion Funds called a meeting last month in Arizona to come up with a strategy that aims to open 10 new support fund programs across the country. Hernandez also said the plan goals will be to expand its network of more than 2,000 volunteers and leverage rising donations to fill more than 100,000 annual requests for financial or travel aid. To help the abortion cases, together, the groups spent around $3.5 million in 2015.
Leaders of the Kentucky Health Justice hope to double volunteers and funding. Fund Texas Choice, an abortion travel aid group formed in 2014, and Arkansas Abortion Support Network, opened a year ago, are also working on expanding.
Religious groups are one of the most fierce oppositions to abortion support groups. An Indiana pastor and activist with the fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America, Joseph Spurgeon is actually the one who labeled abortion access volunteers “accomplices to murder.”
But that did not stop support groups from going to public and resisting pressures to curtail abortion access.
“When we started two years ago, a lawyer told us to make sure your mission is kind of vague, don’t use the A-word,” said Maia Elkana, who started Missouri’s Gateway Women’s Access Fund several years ago. “We’re a lot more out there now.”